quillori: man reading (from the Haft Awrang) (theme: reading)
( Jan. 1st, 2013 02:41 pm)
I still haven't read anything like all the stories I might - indeed I haven't read any Fairy Tales or Mythology at all, except for ones tagged with another fandom as well, or ones where I was following someone else's rec. Nor have I necessarily yet read all the stories in any given fandom. Nonetheless, sneaking in before the reveal, my first rec set. Unless otherwise stated, these are all suitable for people who don't know the original fandom well / at all.

To start with, two stand-outs:

The Wanderer's Reply to the Seafarer - The Exeter Book
Forþon siþgeomorne      yfer saelade
langoð laecþ mec      mine lisse to secanne.

Therefore longing seizes me, journey-weary, to seek my rest across the sea-course.
Fanfic for The Exeter Book, written in the original Old English. Need I say more? Well yes, I should probably add that the helpfully provided English translation is beautiful and worth reading for its own sake.


Contagious fogs - Midsummer Night's Dream
He noted it all down. The district full of empty grey boxes. Shelves filled with dingy bits of string, each tagged with their own cataloguing number. Maps so big that they covered whole floors. The blooms of mould and the books that shed their covers in his hands, moulting for the winter. The paper on which he should have been writing his essay soon became smudged with the dust of leather, telling its own story on its own terms.
On the day before his tutorial Robin finally made his way to the very top of the library, a tiny reading room sitting jauntily on the roof of the New Pond. Its windows overlooked the spires of the pearly grey city. Robin peered through the drops on the pane, squinting through his fingers, but the shape of the city remained stubbornly indistinct, just beyond his grasp.

After the chill of the stacks, the reading room was unnaturally warm. No one at the issue desk, where a calendar showed a date nine months earlier. No readers at the long tables, where signs forlornly warned that books were not to be left overnight. They had been ignored. Although the shelves of the reading room were empty, its tables were piled high with leatherbound volumes, some no bigger than a hand, all of them with spines hanging loose, covers askew, crumbling away into dust. It seemed that the reading room was abandoned.

Robin yawned and curled up in a corner like a cat. Here there were no librarians to roust him out. Here all the books were written in alphabets that he couldn't read, artfully shaped characters freighted with an obscure significance. A book open on his lap, shedding companionably onto his corduroys, and he drifted off to sleep.

He was woken again by voices. Two people strolling slowly into the room, the swish of academic gowns. Robin crawled under the nearest table, screened from view by the stacks of books.

"It's a tragedy," said a woman's sombre voice. "I crossed India and all of the Orient collecting these books on behalf of the Pondeian, on behalf of this library. And now it's all being broken up and scattered, for no reason other than that he wants to demonstrate his power over me."

Another voice, older, male. "Is that what it is?"

"What else could it be? Reasons of sound scholarship? Modernisation?" She laughed bitterly. "No one has ever advocated modernity in Oxenfloode without having a powerful ulterior motive."
I confess I almost didn't read this, for college AUs and I do not get along, but this is a University AU, which is apparently quite different so far as my reading tastes are concerned. One of the best stories, possibly the best, of Yuletide this year, I think. Perhaps the last part is not quite up to the promise of the rest, but the rest is so good, and the last part suffers only by comparison. How I would love more of this, preferably novel length.


I was also very taken with a couple of other stories.


All the Old Knives - The Kalevala, Finnish Mythology
She said to the woods and she said to the water. She told them, I tell you, my name is Kyllikki.
Haunting and raw, with some beautiful lines and a lovely use of repetition.


Songs for the Jingwei Bird - Liáo zhâi zhì yì | Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio
Then from somewhere above him came the sound of laughter, and the peddler craned his neck to see the Eight Immortals settled quite peacefully on a bamboo leaf that was bobbing precariously, even as small as they were. There was Lady He, carrying a miniature lotus and minuscule bamboo ladle; she appeared to be laughing at a scowling Iron-Crutch Li. The other six Immortals were still sleeping, their eyelids no bigger than a grain of rice.
This is the story written for me, and I think it stands quite well enough on its own to rec here, even though for me one of its great pleasures is seeing how the author took elements from the Tales, and from the traditions the Tales draw on, and put them together to create a different type of story: the same raw materials, many of the same themes, but a story recognisably in the Western tradition. I am fascinated by how stories are transmitted from storyteller to storyteller, period to period, culture to culture, and how the same story can be refracted in a hundred different directions depending on the context in which it's told.


As a Blind Man Gropes in Darkness - Swan Lake
He doesn't know what to expect when he sinks his shaking fingers into the pile of feathers. Bones, maybe, hollow and made for flying, or a stiffening body that rocks under his insistent hands. Perhaps he will bloody himself against the sharp edges of broken teeth. Perhaps there will be nothing there at all.
Disturbing and well written version of Swan Lake


Various other stories of various types: )
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